Dog Friday (by Hilary McKay)

I’ve been a huge fan of Hilary McKay’s books for children ever since I came across ‘Saffy’s Angel’, nearly four years ago, on the recommendation of another blogger. I’ve gradually collected quite a few of McKay's books, mostly second-hand, and was delighted to see this one, in a series I had not heard of, at the Awesome Books site not long ago.

‘Dog Friday’ is about a boy called Robin who had a bad experience with a dog. After a nasty period in hospital he lives in fear of dogs, and is quite lonely, too, until a new family move in next-door. There are twins around his age, a small and independent sister called Beany, and a brother called Sun Dance who evidently has some kind of learning problem, but it’s not spelled out what it is. He often seems to miss what’s said, and lives his own life; yet he’s not typically autistic.

The family’s mother runs a bed and breakfast business although she finds it quite frustrating. And they have a dog. Robin gradually learns to accept him… and then comes across a dog on the beach who has apparently been abandoned…

It’s not a long story, and is mainly character-based, so there’s not any single plot, or mystery, or indeed anything much going on other than Robin’s increasing hope that he will be able to adopt the dog, and his gradual loss of fear. The family are, as so many of this author’s are, quite chaotic and very active, yet very loyal to each other, deep down. Sun Dance causes them all kinds of problems, although the twins manage their fair share, too. As Robin observes them and slowly makes friends, his loneliness begins to dissipate.

I didn’t find myself caught up with these people as I did in the series about the Casson family, but it made enjoyable reading over a couple of days, and could be a good read for anyone feeling nervous about dogs. The writing is, as always with this author, very good and nicely paced, and there are mildly humorous moments. It’s light rather than heavy, slightly surreal in places, but overall I liked it very much.

Recommended for anyone over the age of about eight; there’s a tense and potentially scary scene towards the end which might frighten a younger child, and discussion of one or two sensitive issues in passing.

Originally published in 1994, this is not currently in print in the UK - although it can often be found second-hand - but it can be bought in Kindle form. There are apparently two sequels, though I'm in no particular hurry to get hold of them.

Review copyright 2015 Sue's Book Reviews

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